On Thursday, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officials warned riders that activists might stage demonstrations during the coming days in an attempt to disrupt service during busy commute times. The suspected cause of these riots was the July 3 shooting of 45-year-old transient, Charles Blair Hill. According to BART, Officer James Crowell shot Hill after he advanced on the officer and his partner with a knife and then motioned as though he would the weapon. I had a few co-workers leave the office early to avoid the potential mayhem. The occurrences seemed eerily timed with the UK riots that my colleague RJ Bardsley blogged about on Aug. 12, during which participants allegedly used BlackBerry Messenger to communicate and coordinate efforts.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one San Francisco protest website asked people to meet at the site of the shooting on Thursday the 11th. According to the Chronicle, the website went on to elaborate:
“ ‘We wish to remain inconspicuous until the action begins at 5 p.m.’… It added that activists should ‘try to mobilize without public announcement beforehand. This will allow us the element of surprise, and BART will not be able to call in their police force to harass our event.’ ”
Well BART was not ready to sit back and just take this – in a statement from BART on Aug. 12, the agency expressed that “a civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators.” They continued, admitting that “BART temporarily interrupted (cellular) service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.”
Yesterday, the National Journal reported that the FCC is investigating the actions the agency took to interrupt wireless service within its stations during the times that the attacks were anticipated. An FCC spokesman, Neil Grace, said in a statement on Monday that the agency is “continuing to collect information” about BART’s actions and “and will be taking [steps] to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised.” According to the National Journal, Grace also seemed to allude to potential public safety problems that could have arisen when the authorities interrupted service.
Additionally, the hacker collective, Anonymous, took note of what they are calling “cellphone censorship,” and has initiated an #OpBART campaign against BART to rally supporters through social media. Mashable recently reported on the retaliatory response from the group.
What’s your take on the situation? What did you think about the previous post about the UK, and did your perspective change when you learned that similar prohibitive actions were being imposed on the public in the U.S.? Did BART overstep their bounds and put the public at risk by interrupting wireless service or were they preventing a potential public hazard? Did BART impede free speech or play a hand in smartly regulating privately owned platforms? We want to hear from you!
A little bit about me: I get separation anxiety from my cellphone and am certainly a text-a-holic. A prerequisite of dating me is changing your data plan to “unlimited.” I am a proud alumna of Emerson College in Boston and have lived and breathed social media since my entrance into my first college classroom. Facebook junkie, music lover and psychologist at heart. I’m fascinated by the way people interact through technology.